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Redistricting in Florida: Ron DeSantis takes Democrats out of the equation

CNN’s Steve Contorno reports, “Like previous maps submitted by DeSantis’ office, the latest bid would likely reduce the number of districts where black voters are a plurality and make it difficult for Democrats to win anywhere north of Orlando or outside major cities.”

State lawmakers are due to meet for a special session next week that will likely see the map’s final approval.

Whatever the approach, gerrymandering concerns elected officials who attempt to retain power by manipulating the composition of the population they represent, thereby facilitating their party’s victory.

The consequences for the country are serious. Lawmakers from both parties candidly admit that the gerrymandering House districts are one of the main reasons the chamber has become more partisan in recent decades.
Florida is unique, but everyone should pay attention. DeSantis took the unusual step of offering his own Congressional map, which was far more partisan than those going through the State House and Senate — which are controlled by his party — at the time.

Although the state Constitution gives lawmakers responsibility for redistricting, GOP legislative leaders announced this week that they would hand over those duties to DeSantis, ending a power struggle between the two branches of government that has been going on for years. months.

It’s very unusual, but it does raise the possibility that other governors will be encouraged to do the same under the right circumstances in the future.

This is not the victory that Florida Republicans expect. Gerrymandering is bad for everyone. Full stop.

The practice “really hurts all of us. It hurts Americans on both sides, and I think it’s really, really destructive to a democracy,” George Washington University political science professor Christopher Warshaw told AFP. What Matters.

“I think it doesn’t matter if you normally support Democrats or Republicans, gerrymandering is bad. And it’s bad when Republicans do it in Florida, it’s bad when Democrats do it in other states. I think that in a world where it’s hard to come to agreement on things that we should all be saying are off limits, I think blatant gerrymandering is just one of the things that’s so destructive to democracy,” he said. said Warshaw.

“I hope Americans can come together and say, ‘We have to find a way not to do this.’ “

The big picture. To find out more about that, we sat down with Sam Wang, a professor at Princeton University and director of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, to explain what’s going on right now and what it will mean for American politics in years to come. coming. Our conversation, conducted over the phone and edited for length and clarity, is below.

WHAT MATTERS: How unusual is it for a sitting governor to draw his own state’s congressional map?

Wang: Very unusual. The job of legislation belongs to the legislature, and for the legislature to break its impasse with the governor by throwing him into its lap goes against nearly every redistricting tradition in any state.

I’ve followed the redistricting pretty closely for two decades, and I can’t think of any state where it happened that way.

WHAT MATTERS: If DeSantis is successful, how extreme will gerrymandering in Florida be compared to other states?

Wang: It will be one of the most extreme gerrymanders in the country. It will be tied with another Republican gerrymander in Texas, or with Democratic gerrymanders in Illinois or New York.

It will be just as bad as the slew of Republican gerrymanders that took place in 2012, which I consider “the great gerrymander of 2012”. It was a high point for partisan gerrymandering this decade.

WHAT MATTERS: Are you at all worried that this will set a new precedent in which governors around the world will brazenly draw their map of Congress as they see fit?

Wang: As bizarre as the circumstance was, it might be hard to repeat. An important point is that Florida has so many seats in Congress. It was an unusual circumstance.

It is an exceptionally publicized situation, and in which both parties are aware of the stakes. And so I think it’s an extreme set of circumstances, and DeSantis has been engaged in a protracted dispute with the legislature. It would be more common in such a situation for such a dispute to be referred to a state or federal court.

WHAT MATTERS: How to convince both parties that the short-term gains that come with gerrymandering are dwarfed by the long-term gains attack on democracy?

Wang: I would say that you probably have to appeal to legislators out of self-interest.

What I mean by that is that at this point the redistricting across the United States at the congressional level has reached an impasse in which both political parties are indulging to the fullest. And so in terms of gaining power, I think there’s less and less to be gained from pushing partisan gerrymandering.

In terms of other motivations, other incentives that one might give legislators, gerrymandering creates fewer and fewer competitive seats. And the few seats that are competitive will end up being expensive races in which more and more resources are invested in a very small number of states. And it may be that lawmakers may have had enough.

I think a more realistic path is to look at the fact that several dozen states have a process of initiative allowing them to form independent commissions – as has been done over the past decade in Michigan, Colorado and Virginia. It’s a road where people have taken power from legislators, as opposed to legislators who do so voluntarily.

Another route could be to do what happened in Virginia, where the majority actually changed due to demographic changes in Virginia. In this case, the Republican majority feared losing the majority — putting Democrats in the driver’s seat and potentially putting them at risk of being manipulated as they had been committed to for the past decade.

And in this case, I think the fear of being gerrymandered led them to good government reform. And so I think in this case, simple self-preservation led to reformation. So I would say that legislators are, in many ways, no different from anyone else.

They of course have a duty to serve people, but they also have incentives to take care of themselves, and all of these ways I’ve described reflect that.

WHAT MATTERS: Have any states succeeded in regulating gerrymandering to the satisfaction of both parties? It seems that independent commissions could play a key role.

Wang: Yeah, I think the two main roads are basically an independent commission or, rather, a commission that is (as) independent as it gets. And the other way is an action in state court.

Both of these can lead to better outcomes that are fairer from a partisan perspective, giving both sides a level playing field, and also leading to more competition than you see when lawmakers are left in the driver’s seat.

WHAT MATTERS: Would you like to add anything?

Wang: Well, honestly, I think there’s been a lot of coverage in the last month about how there’s less competition. And it’s a big story, but I think actually, in some ways, things aren’t as bad as they make them out to be.

It’s true that there are partisan gerrymanders, but it’s also true that there is a lot of media coverage. The analyzes we have done and the Princeton Gerrymandering project show that overall competition has actually increased slightly since 2012. I would say there is a moderate increase in competition from 10 years ago .

I think the big story is that competition is still weak, but that’s both because of redistricting and because of partisan polarization.

So I think the next challenge is really to find ways to increase competition for congressional seats, as well as state legislative seats. And the same reformers who have worked so hard on redistricting reform could look to the next wave of reforms: things like preferential voting, which can take an uncompetitive constituency and make it more competitive by giving more options to voters.


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